Saints playoff picture: New Orleans’ updated chances to make 2023 NFL playoffs in Week 16

The Saints have taken care of business in back-to-back weeks. Now, the challenges begin for New Orleans.

The Saints took down the Panthers and Giants by a combined 52-12 margin to rebound from a string of three straight losses. The wins were much-needed to keep New Orleans in a contested NFC South race and NFC wild-card picture.

In Week 16, the pressure really starts to begin. The Saints will face the Rams, another 7-7 NFC team in the wild-card race, on “Thursday Night Football” before it ends the year with two straight NFC South games against fellow contenders in the Buccaneers and Falcons.

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The game has plenty of playoff implications for both teams, particularly for the Saints who still still have a chance to win the division.

How does New Orleans look in the playoff race heading into Thursday’s game? Here’s what you need to know.

Saints playoff picture

The Saints come into the game on Thursday outside of the playoff field. Based on tiebreakers, the Saints are down at ninth, trailing fourth other 7-7 teams, including the Buccaneers, who currently hold the NFC South lead.

Seed Team Record
1 49ers 11-3
2 Cowboys 10-4
3 Lions 10-4
4 Buccaneers 7-7
5 Eagles 10-4
6 Vikings 7-7
7 Rams 7-7
8 Seahawks 7-7
9 Saints 7-7

The Saints still have plenty of time to help themselves out. As things stand, New Orleans’ 4-5 conference record is keeping it behind the Vikings, Rams and Seahawks. But the Saints end the year with three straight NFC games, giving them a chance to fix that.

In the NFC South, the Saints lost the first meeting against the Buccaneers, which is the difference between the lead and second place in the division. They’ll face Tampa Bay in Week 17 to get even. They would still need some help in the divisional record tiebreaker, however, since Tampa Bay is currently 3-1 in the division while the Saints are only 2-2.

Saints remaining schedule

The Saints will not have any gimme games left on the schedule. After facing the Rams, the Saints will play the Buccaneers on the road then host the Falcons.

Week Opponent Record Saints win probability
16 at Rams 7-7 44.5%
17 at Buccaneers 7-7 47.8%
18 vs. Falcons 6-8 68.6%

Sporting News’ model has the Saints as narrow underdogs against both the Rams and Buccaneers, but then as comfortable favorites over a slumping Atlanta team.

The game against Tampa Bay will be particularly crucial. Win that, and winning the division looks much more doable. Lose it, however, and it would all but end the divisional race and even make the wild-card race a bit trickier.

Saints playoff chances

Per Sporting News’ projection model, the Saints have a 52.8 percent chance to make the playoffs before facing the Saints.

Here’s a look at the wild-card race, not including the Cowboys or Eagles, who have both clinched a playoff spot, or the division-leading Lions and NFC West champion 49ers.

Team xW-L Div% WC% Playoff%
Buccaneers 9-8 58.3% 15.6% 74.0%
Seahawks 9-8 0.0% 55.2% 55.2%
Saints 9-8 36.4% 16.4% 52.8%
Vikings 8-9 4.9% 42.7% 47.6%
Rams 8-9 0.0% 39.8% 39.8%
Packers 8-9 0.0% 14.1% 14.1%
Falcons 7-10 5.3% 8.1% 13.3%
Bears 7-10 0.0% 2.8% 2.8%

That gives New Orleans the third-best odds of making it to the playoffs, though the model sees its most likely path as winning the NFC South. Still, with a projected record of 9-8, the Saints would top or be even with all the other wild-card contenders.

Should Los Angeles beat the Saints on Thursday, the odds would certainly take a major hit for New Orleans, particularly because it would be losing to another NFC wild-card contender. Seattle and Green Bay both have easier schedules down the stretch than New Orleans, and the Vikings have a strong 6-3 conference record that would be helpful in tiebreaking scenarios.

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